Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Rogers Cup: ‘Excellence’, it’s a platitude

Novak Djokovic has now won 5 Masters titles this season – that's one less than Murray’s won in his entire lifetime. I’m not going to bother relaying the other stats – we already know them too well.


The reaction to this has been the predictable mix of astonishment at witnessing history unfolding before you, to giving him his due…to a particularly benign form of acceptance which I confess I’m beginning to  find completely uninspiring – the journalism, not the streak.

Winning DC, Aus, and the IW/Miami double was “unbelievable”. Following up with a further two MS titles on clay and, of course, Wimbledon was “unprecedented”.

That we’re still talking about it in exactly the same terms over a month later, just two weeks before the last Slam of the year suggests a certain complaisance.

It’s not that I object to giving Novak, or anyone else, his due. Quite apart from how ridiculous or unfair that would be, it’s simply counterproductive – marking you out as little more than a fruitcake with an enormous ideological chip on your shoulder.

And no, I don’t subscribe to the “dominance is boring” school of thought either – nor am I suggesting complaisance on the part of the players.

But there’s only so many times you can sit through breathless essays on the precise nature of excellence. To be honest, it fosters the kind of environment in which its deemed ok to loose to Novak Djokovic – I don’t think he needs any help on that front.

Forgive, therefore, my taking a slightly different tact.

To be honest, the best assessment I’ve seen came from Jo:

"He plays incredible tennis, but he's not an alien. In fact, what he does is doing everything better than the others. He doesn't hit harder, he doesn't hit the ball earlier. But he's always there. This is tiring when you play against him. He does not have the best return on the tour. But on every return, he returns well, and he's always there. So what does it is his consistency, and he has no weaknesses."

-- tennis.com

No he’s not alien. And that’s probably one of the few times you’ll hear consistency being described, in the current climate, in such glowing terms.

But what I really like about it is how technically astute it is – and how he uses those technical observations in order to find a happy medium between giving Novak his due, and giving TENNIS its due – you really can do both. You really ought to do both.

I’ve yet to see a single tennis writer come up with something as cogent or concise; instead, a player known more for his on court talent and/or fragility took us by surprise in an unrehearsed moment of brilliance.

Not just a pretty face then.



I was one of those who were sceptical of her decision to participate in all three events before the USO, not because I thought she couldn’t win, but because I flinch at the idea of her risking injury.

Once again, it appears she knew what she was doing. Still, I won’t be sorry if she goes out early in Cincy.

The win moves her up to #31 in the rankings which, mishaps, upsets, anomalies and the discovery of actual aliens in the draw notwithstanding, really ought to be enough to secure her a seeding in NY.

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